Scrapping Afghanistan cricket series: Australia say human rights aren’t politics

Australia on Friday defended their decision to pull out of cricket series against Afghanistan after a Taliban crackdown on women’s “basic human rights”.

“Basic human rights [issue] is not politics,” Cricket Australia (CA) Chief Executive Nick Hockley said in a statement after Afghanistan’s cricket board lashed the cancellation as “pathetic”. “It is clearly a very challenging and sad situation. We did not take this decision lightly,” Hockley said.

The statement came as Australia, a day earlier, pulled out of an upcoming series against Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates, citing Taliban moves to further restrict women’s rights.

Australia were due to face their Afghan counterparts in three ODIS, which form part of the ICC Super League, in March following a tour to India.

But the CA had said following consultations with stakeholders, including the Australian government, it would no longer take place.

“This decision follows the recent announcement by the Taliban of further restrictions on women’s and girls’ education and employment opportunities and their ability to access parks and gyms,” it said in a statement.

And on Friday, Hockley said Cricket Australia had been hopeful of playing Afghanistan and was in regular contact with the Afghanistan Cricket Board.

“However announcements by the Taliban in late November and late December signalling the deterioration of basic human rights for women in Afghanistan led to our decision to withdraw from these games,” he said.

Hockley said the Australian cricket authority consulted with the Australian government and others before scrapping the games.

Responding to Afghanistan’s best-known international cricketer and leg-spinner Rashid Khan, he said “We acknowledge and applaud Rashid Khan’s and other Afghanistan cricketers’ comments at the time condemning the Taliban’s decision to ban women from universities. Rashid will always be welcome in the BBL.”

The Afghan star had criticised the cancellation and warned he would be “strongly considering” his future in Australia’s Big Bash League,

Australia was committed to growing the game for women and men, the cricket chief said, adding that he hoped better conditions for women and girls in Afghanistan would allow cricket between the countries to resume “in the not too distant future”.

Reaction by Afghan players

Rashid Khan is now considering his future in the Big Bash League (BBL) after Australia’s men’s team withdrew from their ODI series against Afghanistan.

“I am really disappointed to hear that Australia have pulled out of the series to play us in March,” Rashid, who plays for the Adelaide Strikers, said in a statement on Twitter.

“I take great pride in representing my country, and we have made great progress on the world stage. This decision from CA sets us back in that journey.”

Rashid played eight times for the Strikers this season, but left the BBL this month to compete in South Africa’s new Twenty20 league, in which he is captain of MI Cape Town.

“If playing vs Afghanistan is so uncomfortable for Australia, then I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable with my presence in the BBL. Therefore, I will be strongly considering my future in that competition,” Rashid said.

Australia were scheduled to play a Test match against Afghanistan in November, 2021 but it was postponed after the Taliban seized power in August of that year.

Similarly, Afghan bowler Naveen-ul-Haq also pointed to Australia’s previous withdrawal on Twitter.

“Time to say won’t be participating in big bash after this until they stop these childish decisions,” said Naveen, who plays for the Sydney Sixers.

“That’s how they went about the one-off test, now ODI when a country is going through so much in place off (sic) being supportive you want to take the only reason of happiness from them.”

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